This coming away game vs Belarus could well be the one cementing our spot at the Euros 2020.
What a new sensation that will be. Talisman Memphis Depay will not be there to guide us. The Lyon forward with the dazzling stats has a hamstring scare in his thigh and decided to let this one go. Koeman: “It’s not good. He simply can’t play. It’s not a serious injury but we can’t risk it.”
And despite the importance of the former Sparta talent in previous games, we all think that Oranje should be able to beat Belarus without him, as we do have enough goals in the team anyway.
On Sunday, we’ll be playing against the sturdy and rugged Belarussians and against the pitch. Koeman decided not to train in the stadion to protect the pitch as it is in pretty bad shape. “October is typically a month where more rainfall and colder temperatures affect the circumstances here,” Koeman knew.
We might also be playing against ourselves again, as we did against Northern Ireland. Ronald Koeman has been able to repair the issues again, as he did before, but the former Everton coach admitted after the match that when the Northern Irish scored, he didn’t think a win was possible. He also gave credit to assistant coach Kees van Wonderen as he was the one who suggested some changes. Apparently, former Feyenoord captain Van Wonderen is focusing on Oranje’s play without the ball while Dwight Lodeweges focuses on Oranje with the ball. Van Wonderen found the subtle changes needed to regain control, last Thursday.
Koeman will need to find a replacement for Memphis and it’s not likely that he’ll start with Luuk de Jong. Sure, the Sevilla striker broke the deadlock for us but bringing him into the starting line up will mean Koeman foregoes Plan A and goes straight to Plan B. I don’t think he will.
He will either use Promes in the striker role (as the former Ajax talent did for Spartak Moscow and Sevilla) and keep Babel on the left, enabling him to bring Malen off the bench as impact player. Or he will bring Babel to the centre in Memphis spot and start with Malen on the left flank, rewarding the former Arsenal talent for his wonderful turns in Orange.
Ronald Koeman might not change much more. As Koeman isn’t one to change quickly. “I don’t have a lot of time before matches to try out different things. These qualification games are played to win. Not to try out stuff, or to experiment or to give another player a chance. We are playing these games to qualify and once we qualified, another situation starts. People who know me, know I won’t be changing for the sake of change. I trust the core group we have and I also look at – what I call – couples. It’s never about one player vs another player. It’s about the specific qualities of a player in combination with his team mates. That whole De Roon – Van de Beek discussion for instances. It’s rubbish, but it’s what the media do. I don’t mind, but I am not playing along. For starters, I don’t want to take the coupling of Memphis and Wijnaldum apart. So these two are in the team. Frenkie is a midfielder who wants to dribble and who wants to find space to roam into. With him, I simply want the other midfielder to hold the space. De Roon is very disciplined like this, like Propper. Propper is also a very good passer of the ball, while De Roon is better in the personal duels. Van de Beek however, is a different player. He also wants to penetrate and run forward. I can’t have this with Frenkie exposed. It is that simple.”
People here think Nathan Ake could be a better alternative than Blind. Could be. There is no evidence that he will. Ake is a strong header of the ball and a good defender. Blind is not a strong header of the ball, but a tremendous passer of the ball. Here we are comparing apples with pears. Blind is in the team, also because he is used to playing alongside Mathijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong (and Donny van de Beek or Promes should they play). That coupling, as Koeman calls it, is important for the coach.
Stefan de Vrij is seen as a top defender in Italy and the media there can’t understand why he doesn’t play. But Koeman will not bench De Ligt for one bad touch, and select De Vrij. Because if he does this, Koeman will have to be changing the team constantly.
So, Koeman is not going to replace Blind for Ake “because that could work”. Or De Vrij for De Ligt. That is not good enough. Blind is the experienced defender who has played most matches since 2014 and that experience will not be foregone by Koeman because he made an error. I think we only had one player in Oranje who hasn’t made an obvious error. That is Frenkie de Jong. De Ligt had a number of howlers. Virgil van Dijk had one vs France (Giroud’s goal) and so has Dumfries, Babel and all others. Koeman will not replace a player for making a mistake. Football is a game of mistakes. Koeman will replace players only if an alternative has been significantly better for games on end than the existing player.
Now Koeman has to replace Memphis. This will probably make the odds that De Roon doesn’t play smaller. Koeman doesn’t like to change much. I do hope Dumfries will make way for Promes as wing back. Against Belarus (and Northern Ireland) we really don’t need a fourth defender. The space will be limited so Dumfries will not be able to play to his strength.
I would go for the following line up:
Promes – De Ligt – Van Dijk – Blind
Van de Beek – Frenkie de Jong – Wijnaldum
Bergwijn – Babel – Malen
Although I do think Koeman will play De Roon and start with Van de Beek from the bench. Wijnaldum will be #10, but with Memphis missing, I would opt for Wijnaldum in his Liverpool role as holding mid and Van de Beek behind the striker on #10.
The former Barca centre back said recently he does like to have options on the bench to bring in, so if Malen starts, I think Van de Beek will be used as impact player.
Tell me how you would want to see it?